Comeback kids taint memory of past exploitsSports heroes ride into the sunset and then they come back, sometimes in a fragile body hoping to cash in one last time on some desperate owner or agent who is willing to take the risk and wants to milk the “golden boy” to the last drop.
Then there is another kind of comeback, the kind that former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson has mastered. The youngest heavyweight champion in the history of boxing, Tyson had another encounter with the law last week. This time, he added drug possession to his resume, which already includes rape and assault charges. You remember Tyson, don’t you? The kid from Brooklyn, New York who at age 20 achieved this remarkable feat and made his name around the globe, including here. Known as “Iron Mike,” he carried a different nickname in South Korea; he was called “nuclear punch” by the press. I still vividly remember him when I was a kid watching TV. He stepped into the ring and it was almost like Darth Vader’s “force” radiating from his body, a force that strangled the opponent even before the bell rang. Even for a kid like me it was obvious. Opposing boxers had one thing in their minds and one thing only: fear. To me, the most memorable fight involving Tyson was the one that ended the career of Michael Spinks. Called the Spinks Jinx, one of my all-time favorite boxers, he was knocked out in the first round, his first and last defeat in his professional career at Tyson’s hands in 1988. It was the same Tyson who gave Larry Holmes his first and only knockout loss of his career.
More than a decade has passed and we are still talking about Tyson, but in a different light. What better words to capture Tyson’s downfall than the words of Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who told the Arizona Republic, “A week ago, my kids and I were watching Rocky Balboa and we saw Mike Tyson make a cameo appearance in the movie. Now here we are, and he’s looking at going back to prison.” I have not watched the movie yet, and I was undecided until I read that.
How twisted can fate be that in a movie that is about the comeback of a retired boxing champion, a real legend has probably made his last appearance to the public. Tyson is 40 years old, and his prison sentence could be anything from two to seven years.
It’s probably wishful thinking to hope that a great athlete would just vanish completely from the earth after his retirement. No grill TV ads, no scandals. You hope that the man that you remember on the field is the last glimpse you see of that man because that’s how you want to remember him. But you know that won’t happen.
There are still fans out there who remember Tyson’s boxing style; how he methodically used his defense to get near the opponent and then deliver a knockout punch. But kids who love boxing will not remember that. They will be swayed by the TV coverage of Tyson and point their fingers.
When athletes retire they leave everything on the field. Or so you hope. In his prime, Tyson was the best and had the potential to be dominant for a very long time. He wasted his talent and is now fighting the toughest bout of his life. It’s against himself, and one would hope that he’ll be the last man standing.
by Brain lee